GREENWICH — Every kid who plays ice hockey dreams of delivering a big performance in a championship setting.
For New Canaan senior Jack Johnson, that dream became a reality on Saturday.
Johnson scored a hat trick and took MVP honors to lead the fourth-seeded Rams to their second consecutive FCIAC boys ice hockey championship with a 3-1 win over No. 3 Greenwich in the Div. I final at Hamill Rink.
It was the Rams’ fifth straight victory in the playoffs, and came on the heels of a dramatic 2-1 win against rival Darien in Thursday’s semifinals. Johnson scored the game-winner in that one.
“When the playoffs hit we had a completely different mentality and we were coming out hard,” Jack Johnson said. “I’ve been on this team last year and this year and we’ve gotten back-to-back FCIAC championships so that’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
— Dave Stewart (@DStewartSports) March 27, 2021
It was also a family affair for Jack Johnson, as younger brother Beau, a sophomore goalie, made 33 saves to keep New Canaan (8-6-1) in control. In three playoff games, he allowed just three goals with just one coming while skating at even strength.
Beau Johnson, the MVP of last year’s final, said this season’s key was the steady influence of the seniors.
“I think people underestimate senior leadership and that’s what really helped us,” he said. “Going under .500 (during the regular season) was tough but we were able to turn it around and prove people wrong.”
The Cardinals (10-5) had their five-game winning streak broken, and were denied their first FCIAC title since 2016.
“We had a great senior class and all you can talk about is how hard they worked and their great leadership,” Greenwich coach Jack Duffy said. “It doesn’t help them right now, but to be here and accomplish what they did – I’m just proud of their work ethic and how they’re great teammates. In the end that’s what really counts.
“We ran into a great team today who just played awesome today.”
New Canaan broke through first when Jack Johnson scored nine seconds into a power play with assists from Luc Lampert and Shane Mettler with 3:52 to play in the first period.
The Cardinals knotted the score with a power play goal of their own 2:19 into the second. Peter Lewis hit the net with an assist from Wes Zolin.
The deadlock lasted just 24 seconds as Lampert sent a pass across to Jack Johnson, who was camped near the right pipe, and Johnson cashed in.
Jack Johnson completed his hat trick and gave New Canaan a 3-1 lead with a breakaway goal with just 2.1 seconds left in the second period.
The defense had played the puck ahead to senior Boden Gammill along the wall, and he made the pass for the breakout.
“I looked up and there were six seconds left and I wasn’t sure if I had enough time,” Jack Johnson said. “But I screamed for the puck and just tried to get down the ice as fast as I could, made a little play to the outside and ripped it. That was a big goal and furthered our momentum going into the third.”
“Jack Johnson had a massive game,” New Canaan coach Clark Jones said. “It was Beau Johnson’s time last year, and now it was Jack’s time. He stepped up and he’s been doing it all year long for us. His goal with two seconds left in the second period was a major, major deal. It was a big game-changer.”
In that final stanza, Greenwich had chances and outshot the Rams 14-7, but couldn’t break through against the Rams’ defense, which went all-out to maintain the two-goal lead.
“I thought if we could get it back to 3-2 it would really change the make-up of the third period,” Duffy said. “We played great in the third period and we had a lot of opportunities. We were getting pucks to the net and Johnson was really solid. We just couldn’t get it by him for the second goal.”
“Everyone put their bodies on the line,” Jack Johnson said. “The defensemen were really laying out, and were so well-positioned. Greenwich is such a great team and our defense just played incredible. And Beau is an amazing playoff player and we’re really lucky to have him as a goalie.”
In the aftermath of the second championship, Jones pointed to a couple of keys for the Rams.
“It really helps when you have a really good goalie,” Jones said with a smile. “And a group of guys who know how to win and have experience. These kids learned how to win, they felt it, and they dialed it up.
“I felt like I was a fan watching the game today.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jack Johnson, New Canaan. Bottom line: Johnson, the MVP, put up a hat trick in a championship game. His third goal, coming with 2.1 seconds remaining in the second period, was a killer.
“He’s such a role model for me as my older brother. At home, on the car rides, on the bus — I see how much he cares. He’s a great player and (winning MVP) was well-deserved.” — New Canaan goalie Beau Johnson on older brother Jack Johnson